Sen. John Tower
Born: Sept. 29, 1925 in Houston, Texas
Died: April 5, 1991
John Tower graduated from Beaumont High School and enlisted in the Navy in 1943. He served in the Pacific during WWII and was discharged in 1946. Tower graduated from Southwestern University, attended the London School of Economics and Political Science, earning a master's degree in political science. He worked as a radio announcer (in Beaumont) and insurance salesman before becoming an associate professor of political science at Midwestern University in 1951.
He first ran for political office in 1954 but was defeated. In 1960, he ran again and was defeated by Lyndon B. Johnson, who vacated his seat a year later to assume the vice-presidency; Tower defeated Bill Blakley in the special election and became the youngest man in the Senate. He was only 36 at the time, and there were 71 candidates in the race. Tower became Texas' first Republican senator since Reconstruction.
Considered an ultraconservative, during his 23 years in the Senate, Tower became an authority in matters concerning national defense and the military. As defense spending rose to $211 billion a year, Tower brought prized defense contracts to Texas. In 1981, he became chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
In 1985, President Reagan named Tower to the post of strategic arms negotiator with the Soviet Union. The following year, he appointed Tower to chair a bipartisan committee to investigate the Iran-contra scandal. George Bush nominated Tower for Secretary of Defense in 1989, but critics claimed he had too many ties to defense contractors. His was the first rejection of a cabinet nominee in more than 30 years.
Tower later published a book about his career titled Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir.